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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘A very special place’

New home has CBE students, staff excited

The first day back at school after spring break for Contract Based Education wasn’t until Wednesday, but dozens of students showed up Monday for a pizza lunch and tours of their new school at Sprague Avenue and University Road.

The new space is 6,000 square feet bigger than the old building at 123 S. Bowdish Road. Art is taught in a classroom, not a converted closet. Each teacher has a small classroom, so classes will no longer be held by the front entrance as people walk by.

The school, known as CBE, is a co-op alternative school run by the West Valley School District in partnership with the Central Valley, East Valley and Freeman districts.

Principal Cleve Penberthy spoke to the gathered students Monday about their new home. To make sure his voice would carry far enough for everyone to hear, he climbed up on a desk to speak. “I’m breaking the rules already,” he said.

Penberthy called the new space, which bears no resemblance to the Rite Aid that used to be there, a place of “dignity and respect.”

“We’re opening up a very special place,” Penberthy said. “This was a sign of respect by the West Valley School District. I see this as an absolute new beginning for all of us.”

He also reminded the students of the need to be good neighbors. The school, which occupies half the former store on the southeast corner of the intersection, is surrounded by businesses.

Student Ketra Devlin, 15, was extremely excited about the new building. “I love it,” she said. “It’s so much bigger. We have windows in the classrooms now. There’s so much more parking.”

Student Ariel Mahoney, 17, knew what she liked best. “The bathrooms are huge,” she said.

Counselor Darrell Urlacher said it’s not just the students who are thrilled.

“This building is oozing with excitement, both the students and the staff,” Urlacher said. “We don’t have to teach history in the lobby anymore. It’s a much better learning environment.”

The building seems spacious and airy. The walls on most of the classrooms end a few feet from the high ceiling, though some offices and the music room do have full walls. That was done because of how the building’s sprinkler and heating systems were arranged. Plus, lowering the walls lets more natural light into the core of the school.

Urlacher said some students worried that the school would turn into a more traditional school with the new building, but he reassured them that won’t be the case.

“You’re just going to have a little elbow room and a place to eat your lunch,” Urlacher told them.

When the school first started, students came in about once a week to get homework packets and work one on one with a teacher. That contract style of education ended years ago. The school now offers four periods a day Monday through Thursday. Most students attend classes two days a week.

The new space means that some classes will be able to grow slightly.

“We can have 12 kids in a room,” Penberthy said. “I would imagine we’ll have more kids coming more often.”

About 20 new students were added off the waiting list for the last term of the year. Penberthy said he wants to keep the school at about 400 students.

“You’ve got to keep it fairly intimate,” Penberthy said. “At this point I want to stabilize.”

Like the students, Penberthy said he’s excited to come to school each day.

“Last night was like Christmas Eve for me,” Penberthy said. “I couldn’t sleep. The digital clock just kept moving, but very slowly.”

There were still stacks of boxes piled in corners and empty bookshelves in offices and classrooms throughout the building on Monday, as everyone hurried to get ready for classes to begin. Penberthy had nothing but praise for the West Valley maintenance staff that handled the move.

“They did a remarkable job,” Penberthy said.

Nina Culver can be reached at (509) 927-2158 or via e-mail at
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